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FIRST Crossroads, Spotlight on the Event: One Team's Story

April 6, 2013

by Marianne Messina

Kil-A-Bytes behind the scenes with Ashley, their tall,
robot, Crossroads' Imagery Award winner 

The Kil-A-Bytes (team 1024) stand out from the crowd with their neon yellow over blue and their towering robot Ashley that likes to shoot all four discs at once. The robot was designed as a “corner climber” (it climbs up the solid pyramid corner rather than stepping up the crossbars) with a way of rocking back as it climbs that, according to one team member, makes it quite a crowd-pleaser. The MC once called it “the fetal position climb.” Possibly these were factors in their win of the Imagery Award on Friday evening of the competition.

While Ashley’s lofty stature makes it a great shooter for landing discs at the top of the pyramid tower, it also makes the Kil-A-Bytes bot a favorite target of bump attacks. As a result, 1024 spent a good part of later matches rocking, teetering on the brink, and, usually, recovering.

“It’s pretty hard for our robot to tip over,” said AJ Dick, a high school junior and programmer for the robot.


Ashley held its own against this bumper action until match 70, a particularly block-heavy match on Saturday morning that led to a massacre. When the carnage ended, 1024, fighting for the red alliance was wheels-up on the ground and the action had taken out a second red bot and a defensive blue bot as well.  Though the blue had sacrificed some shooting points, they managed to have two bots hanging at the buzzer, so their blue strategy paid off, edging out the red in the final score.

AJ’s father, David Dick, was watching from the balcony on Friday afternoon as Ashley rocked on its wheels after an attack, looking like it might go over. The robot recovered and scrambled to hang on the pyramid just in the nick of time. A public school science teacher on spring break, Dick left after that match to go cook for the team. He would be back on Saturday with meals for all the Kil-A-Bytes. The pride in the achievements of his programmer son is obvious.

“He’s ahead of me,” Dick said.

Dick added that a lot went on behind the scenes, for example tweaking like crazy to make adjustments between matches. Though the Kil-A-Bytes robot experienced difficulty in early matches with its “geometry,” the team readjusted its climbing mechanism so that the robot could compete with the more typical hangs, hanging from the bottom crossbar successfully for the 10 points.

The Kil-A-Bytes also exhibited the generous collaborative spirit that has become part of the FIRST Robotics culture. “My son went over to another team to help them do programming,” said David Dick.

RoboDevils in game  
RoboDevils earn the Crossroads Regional Gracious
Professionalism award.

Kil-A-Bytes team mentor Julie Nelson said that the Kil-A-Bytes have also been on the receiving end of generous collaboration in years past.

“My favorite competition memory comes from the 2008 Purdue Boilermaker Regional," Nelson said. "During the playoff matches, our robot suffered a ‘potentially catastrophic brain failure!’ The Pike Robodevils, Team 1018, who had already been eliminated from competition, offered us a ‘brain transplant.’ At great inconvenience to their own robot, they graciously severed all connections and we installed the working brain from the RoboDevils, allowing us to stay in the competition.”

Apparently, the RoboDevils have been consistent in their generosity since 2008. At Crossroads Regional they came up with the “Gracious Professionalism” award.